It's a great buzz when you see lots of birds visiting your garden every day and it's something that anyone can do. There is a bewildering selection of websites that will give you advice on feeding garden birds but we wanted to write an article with simple steps that will help anyone get involved in helping the birds in your area. So here goes!
Step 1: Get a bird feeder
There are lots of different types of bird feeders and they are all for different types of food. The main types are:
This type of feeder is used predominantly with sunflower seeds, which are the preferred food of a variety of finches.
We recommend that you don't get cheap seed mixes - birds will pick through these seeds for the ones they prefer and throw the rest on the ground. You end up using a lot more seed than you think you will.
The simplest type of seed to get and use with this type of feeder is sunflower hearts.
You shouldn't use peanuts with this type of feeder - it is possible for birds to get a whole peanut out through the holes in the feeder and they can choke.
This type of feeder is especially for use with peanuts, which are the preferred food of a variety of tits.
Peanuts can be expensive but they last a long time because the birds need to peck through the mesh to get at the nuts.
Peanuts also produce very little mess.
This type of feeder is especially for use with nyjer seeds, which are the preferred food of goldfinches.
Nyjer seeds are tiny so you need a special feeder with small holes or else the seeds will pour out of the holes in the bird feeder.
Nyjer seeds can be expensive but if you want to get goldfinches to visit your garden, there is no easier way than putting out nyjer seeds.
Step 2: Put it in your garden
Placing your bird feeder in your garden is not difficult if you follow these simple guidelines:
Hang the bird feeder where you will be able to see it when you are inside.
Make sure the bird feeder is high enough to be out of reach of cats, dogs and other animals.
The bird feeder should be away from walls, fences or shrubs - anywhere that predators (particularly cats) can hide and attack from.
Step 3: Put food in it
Ideally you should feed birds all year round but the most important time is during the winter. Birds tend to feed predominantly in the morning, in or around dawn, and in the evening, before dusk so it's important to make sure your feeder is full at these times. Don't put out too much food at the same time because it can go mouldy in the bird feeder. Also, don't let food accumulate on the ground because this will attract rodents.
Birds can quickly become dependent on the food you are providing - particularly during the winter - so once you decide to start feeding birds you should stick with it.
Finally, bird feeders need to be cleaned regularly to minimise the risk of infections spreading between birds and also because they can start looking pretty dirty after a while, which isn't the nicest thing to look out at in your garden.
Step 4: Don't forget water
Birds need water as well, so don't forget to put some out as well as the food. You don't need anything flashy to put out water - a simple plastic plate will do.
You need to change the water regularly, ideally every time you fill your bird feeder.
Step 5: Get a bird book
When you start getting birds arriving in your garden, half of the fun is figuring out what types of birds you're seeing. The best one we have found is Ireland's Garden Birds by Oran O'Sullivan and Jim Wilson.
After a while you can also consider investing in a pair of binoculars - small ones to start, even for adults, and then a better quality pair later on.
We hope this advice helps you get started - trust us, putting out a feeder in your garden is great fun and totally worth it!